Scientists from the Diabetes Centre at the University of California have successfully converted human skin cells into functional pancreatic cells, an achievement that could ward off the requirement of insulin jabs. The human skin cells protected mice from contracting diabetes as it produced insulin in response to the changes in glucose levels.
The results will allow scientists to develop a personalised cell therapy for diabetics by scaling up pancreatic cell production to manufacture trillions of target cells in a controlled manner. For the study, scientists first used pharmaceutical and genetic molecules to reprogram skin cells into endoderm progenitor cells, the cells that are destined to transform into different types of organs. Thereafter, another four molecules were added after which, the endoderm cells were divided rapidly. Soon after this, the cells were taken two more steps ahead, first into pancreatic precursor cells and then into fully–functional pancreatic beta cells.
According to Matthias Hebrok, director of the Diabetes Centre at University of California, the results demonstrate that human adult skin cells could be used to efficiently and rapidly generate functional pancreatic cells that behave like human beta cells.